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Advent book review: Stick with Love (The Archbishop of York’s Advent Book 2023) by Arun Arora

27 October 2023

Philip Welsh considers an archbishop’s choice of Advent 2023 reading

ARUN ARORA has been Director of Communications for the Archbishop of York and for the Church of England. He is now Bishop of Kirkstall, and the present Archbishop of York has chosen Stick with Love — a phrase from Martin Luther King — as his Advent Book.

Each day, it gives us “stories of individuals from across the world, whose lives speak of a divine love and the triumph of hope”, with questions for reflection. The author gathers inspiring figures from the calendar, the news, and especially around the globe, in a heady mix of the familiar, the overlooked, and the surprising, including, among others, St Nicholas and Stormzy, Eglantyne Jebb and George Floyd, C. F. Andrews and Asia Bibi.

Interwoven with these is the author’s personal story. By way of being introduced to St Francis Xavier, we start by learning how Arora came to faith, growing up in a non-Christian Indian family in “that divine city” of Birmingham, and he completes his testimony in a chapter featuring Billy Graham. As senior student at Cranmer Hall, he writes President to President to the ruler of Eritrea.

On the staff at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, he describes the Anglican Communion, touchingly, as “a vast and diverse family which points to that picture of heaven in the book of Revelation”. By the time he attends the 2022 Conference as a new bishop, he finds that “provinces, mainly from Africa, were offered financial inducements by church organisations in wealthier parts of the world if they agreed to boycott the conference.”

His eclectic choice of subjects and digressive variety of treatment make for lively, though uneven, reading: his brief introduction to Ambrose gets hijacked when it reminds him of a story that he retells at length; but it’s a funny story and makes a good point. His own story is never far away, and sometimes seems to jostle with his heroes for attention: “during my first week working as Director of Communications for the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu came into my office, clearly troubled.”

In one of the obligatory encomia that books now include, “Reading this was like spending an afternoon with Bishop Arun at the pub.” The notion of a bishop’s spending an afternoon in a pub — even a suffragan bishop — is beyond the scope of this review.

The Revd Philip Welsh is a retired priest in the diocese of London


Stick with Love: Rejoicing in every tongue, every tribe, every nation (The Archbishop of York’s Advent Book 2023)
Arun Arora
SPCK £10.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.79

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